Finding new ways to improve public sector performance is one of the key
objectives of Public Management research. Our project contributed
to this by establishing a causal chain from leadership training
to leadership strategy to organisational performance.
Leadership is seen as fundamentally important for improving public sector performance, but the existing literature has severe endogeneity problems. Using a field experiment with 672 Danish leaders and their 20.000 employees, this project contributes to overcome these problems. By analyzing the effects of leadership training and leadership strategies on organizational performance, we contribute to the international literature on leadership and the domestic debate on public sector steering and performance.
How can government continually improve performance to earn the respect of citizens who pay for it and whose lives are affected by its activities? The literature (Wright & Pandey 2010; Buelens et al. 2006) indicates that leadership and leadership training are important parts of the answer. However, existing studies suffer from major endogeneity problems as leadership and performance affect each other. To be able to establish the causal sequence the LEAP project conducted a field experiment giving leadership training to randomly assigned leaders. By experimentally inducing the changes in leadership behavior, it will be made clearer to what degree leadership affects performance.
The key questions are how leadership training affects leadership strategies, and how these strategies affect motivation and organizational performance. We also investigate whether performance information use and psychological working environment mediate part of the effect of leadership strategy on organizational performance. We primarily focus on public sector leadership, but we include private organizations to test whether public sector leadership differs from private sector leadership. We distinguish between transactional leadership based on exchange of rewards for effort and transformational leadership where leaders are focused on changing their followers’ motivation and values.
In total 504 out of the initial 672 leaders are still in the project after three years and three rounds of questionnaires. The first survey took place before the training, the second after the training, and the third survey was sent one year after that. Since then the results have been analyzed and many articles has been published. Overall, the experiment shows that the leadership training actually changed the leadership behavior of the leaders who participated. Furthermore, leadership can have a positive effect on employee motivation when employee and organizational values are congruent. In our results section a more detailed overview of the project’s outcomes is presented.